Houston, Phoenix, and Growing List of other Communities are Proving that Ending Homelessness is Possible and Within Reach
Last week, members of the Cabinet and leaders from 19 Federal agencies, who together make up the Interagency Council on Homelessness, met to take action on Federal efforts to support and advance progress on ending homelessness in local communities.
From left: Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger
"One of the areas where I really want to make sure we're stepping up is to deepen our partnership with mayors around the country," said HUD Secretary and USICH Council Chair Shaun Donovan. "We have seen that where mayors and local government are engaged we're making remarkable progress."
Community leaders from Houston and Phoenix were invited to discuss the impacts that Federal partnerships have had on local efforts to end homelessness. Houston and Phoenix represent two of the growing number of communities around the country that are making significant progress toward reaching the goals of
Opening Doors. These communities are demonstrating that--by engaging in strong local and Federal partnerships and taking strategic actions to maximize Federal, State, and local resources, increase evidence-based housing and services models like permanent supportive housing, and focus on outcomes--solving homelessness is possible and within reach.
"We are really showing, through the course of our work, that homelessness is not an intractable problem," said USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger. "It's actually a problem we're solving."
Mandy Chapman Semple, Special Assistant for Homeless Initiatives to Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, told the Council that Houston is expecting to end homelessness among Veterans in 2014, one year ahead of the national goal. "We believe by the end of 2014, Houston will have achieved a steady state system, meaning that no Veteran has to be homeless," said Chapman Semple. "We have built a system that can house those individuals within a 30-day period with a strong retention in their permanent housing."
Amy Schwabenlender, Vice President of Community Impact at Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix/Maricopa County, Arizona shared similarly impressive results with the Council. Phoenix, where Mayor Greg Stanton recently announced an end to chronic homelessness among Veterans, is on track to end homelessness among all Veterans in 2015.
"In Phoenix and Maricopa County, we are very excited by our progress," said Schwabenlender. "We want to help achieve the goals of the Federal plan,
The Obama Administration, in partnership with communities across the country, is changing the trajectory of homelessness through the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. USICH is proud to release our Annual Update to Congress on the progress of Opening Doors.
Since the launch of Opening Doors in 2010, we've reduced homelessness by more than six percent, overall. We've reduced homelessness among families by eight percent, chronic homelessness by 16 percent, and we've reduced homelessness among Veterans by an incredible 24 percent.
Our progress reflects the efforts of thousands of dedicated partners, across all levels of government and the private and not-for-profit sectors, working together to end homelessness. Most importantly, our progress tells the story of the tens of thousands of people--individuals, Veterans, youth, and families--who, because of Opening Doors, have a safe and stable place to call home.
Our progress is real, and so is the opportunity we have now to build on our momentum and persist steadfast toward our goals until we have achieved an end to homelessness. We know that ending homelessness requires both new resources and strategic local policy changes. We are more successful at securing needed resources when communities demonstrate that reaching our goals are possible through strategic action: maximizing Federal, State, and local resources, leveraging commitments from public housing agencies to increase permanent supportive housing, and focusing on outcomes.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the 2014 HMIS Data Dictionary and HMIS Data Manual, with an effective date of October 1, 2014. This joint release demonstrates significant collaboration between the three agencies to support data collection on homelessness across their programs and systems.
These data standards mark a significant step toward alignment of data on homelessness across Federal programs. HUD and its Federal partners are also drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that defines how the agencies will coordinate on homeless data collection and reporting into the future.
The new standards will allow a broader range of Federal programs to have commensurate data on homelessness. Over the long term, for service providers funded by multiple Federal programs, the new data standards can simplify how providers satisfy reporting requirements, as well as help to organize and compile data to support community-level planning.
On April 24, 2014, HUD announced $29 million in grants to assist more than 1,200 extremely low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS. This funding will provide these households with a stable living environment, which is essential to accessing healthcare and HIV related services. In addition to housing assistance, these local programs will provide access to the needed supportive services such as life skills, job readiness services, and employment training.
The funding is offered through HUD's Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA) and will renew HUD's support of 26 local programs in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands
"These grants will give our local partners a vital resource to keep low-income individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS healthy," said Secretary Shaun Donovan.
Ending chronic homelessness not only pays for itself, it actually results in net public savings. The true cost of not ending chronic homelessness goes beyond government spending. The true cost of chronic homelessness encompasses human lives, and it comes down to our very identity as a nation and society.
Can we as a nation, faced with overwhelming evidence, afford the shame of doing nothing? Can we live with the knowledge that we could have solved a national tragedy and saved more than a 100,000 lives, but simply chose not to? Taken together, the costs of doing nothing are simply too high.
Sometimes there is a simple concept to tackling a difficult problem.
Over the years, more and more of our homeless teens staying at our short-term residential program were coming from homeless families. It was difficult to reunite homeless teens with their families if the families were homeless. What could we do? Luckily a timely presentation on an Ohio school-based case management program for homeless families provided the spark for a new, promising program that we started last year.
USICH is currently recruiting a Program Assistant to serve as the administrative and confidential assistant to the Executive Director, and who is responsible for performing a wide variety of duties that require close association with and full knowledge of the Executive Director and other team members' duties, activities, and interests.
USICH is seeking a part-time intern to support a range of USICH work with a focus on the state and community-level activities. The incumbent will perform a variety of duties to support the National Initiatives team, which may include, research support, drafting correspondence, and maintaining current information on state and community issues related to homelessness.
USICH is dedicated to supporting states and communities to implement a Human Rights approach to ending homelessness that connects people to stable housing and eliminates the criminalization of homelessness.